On the whole, King David is considered to be a godly man, in spite of well-known lapses as a father, a man, and a national leader. We look to him as an example of godliness in part because the aftermath of his failures consistently saw him turning back to God in repentance. David depended solely on the mercies of God to press on for God after his failures. We, who share the fallen nature with him, have a lot of sympathy both for his failures and for his heartfelt repentance. We admire his tenacity in faith.
In the Psalms, we have many testimonies from David to give us insight into his spiritual commitments. Often these expressions of faith are the fruit of early years, long before his notable failures came on the scene. From them we can glean an idea of what motivates the kind of godliness David displayed overall, and we can see the bedrock of faith to which we can return when we fail.
One such psalm that recently occupied my attention is the 16th. The psalm is significant because it is cited by Peter and Paul as a proof that our Lord Jesus is indeed the Messiah, Saviour and God they (and we) claim him to be. David’s prophetic faith is an example of the kind of spiritual commitments that produce godliness in the future course of life.
In the first six verses, commentator Derek Kidner finds five aspects of single-mindedness on display as David throws in his lot with God:
|Aspect of Single-mindedness||Psalm 16||Comment|
|one’s security||1 Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.||David’s prayer shows his single-minded confidence in God as the right place for his security. David doesn’t specify the trouble that motivated the prayer, making the immediate application very broad. God can answer for every trouble.|
|one’s … welfare||2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;||The second “Lord” is Adonai – ‘master,’ implying submission. The translation is challenging, note the italicized portions! Other translations seem smoother: “I have no good besides You” or “I have no good apart from you” The idea is that David in his single-mindedness knows where to go to find good – that is, he needs to submit his life to his Master, the LORD who saves.|
|one’s … associates||3 But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.||David makes choices of associates by a select criterion. They are saints and excellent ones, men approved of God. It is in them David finds his delight. He is single-minded about those with whom he associates, no delight or casual friendship with the ungodly.|
|one’s … worship||4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.||David is so single-minded in worship that we will not sully his lips with the names of false gods. He repudiates their sacrifices and observes the multiplied sorrows of those who turn to them in hope. Their hope is destined to disappoint.|
|one’s … ambitions||5 The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.
6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
|The last two verses of this section speak of David’s satisfaction with his lot in life. And he sees his lot, not as lands and possessions (though surely he had title to much), but as the LORD himself – just as the Levites were called to be satisfied with the Lord as their inheritance, so David finds satisfaction with the Lord. The lines have fallen for him in very pleasant places. It is enough!|
The single-minded devotion to God of the first six verses produce a personal commitment to God, who blesses with counsel and fellowship:
7 I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.
8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
The basis of David’s single-minded devotion is his confident faith in his eternal future. The foundation of David’s godliness rests ultimately in his faith commitment to that which he knows the Lord has in store for him beyond this life:
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Notice that David’s heart rejoices and his flesh (his physical being) is filled with future hope. Why? “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.” David is confident of the resurrection. He knows that he will stand before His God one day, whole and entire, wanting nothing. One commentator calls this passage one of the clearest statements of the resurrection in the Old Testament. How can David be so sure?
Well, this is where the whole passage becomes most interesting to us. Peter says, in Acts 2.30 that David was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him that his seed would sit on his throne forever. Thus, Peter says in Acts 2.31, David looked into the future and saw his descendant, the Christ, resurrected himself: “neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”
As we think about this, notice that in Psalm 16 there is a proliferation of “me, my, and I” phrases throughout the psalm:
Verse 1: Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust
Verse 2: O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness …
Verse 3: … to the excellent, in whom is all my delight
Verse 4: … their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips
Verse 5: The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot
Verse 6: The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
Verse 7: I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.
Verse 8: I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved
Verse 9: Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
Verse 10: For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; …
Verse 11: Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
In every verse, the phrases of the psalm are filled with the first person singular pronoun. Some commentators take this to be David, speaking for the Messiah. In other words, as the Holy Spirit is giving David this psalm, David is sort of “in the Spirit” and it is as if Christ is speaking through David. I suppose that could be so, but then why is this phrase in verse 10 so different from all the rest, going from first person to second and third person, right in mid-point of the verse?
neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption
Peter says that David is a prophet and is seeing the resurrection of his descendant, the Christ, in this phrase. I think that David is speaking for himself throughout the psalm. This is the voice of David, this is his testimony of a single-minded faith. And the bedrock of that faith is what he sees, as a prophet, far in the future, the foundation of his hope in his own resurrection, the resurrection of the Christ.
He knows that he will rise because he knows the Christ will rise — and the Christ will not even see corruption, death may take him, but death will never hold him.
I suggest that our faith rests on that same fact. As David looked forward, we look backward, and we see the same thing.
David expresses his confidence in endless bliss on the basis of the resurrected Christ in the last verse, returning to the first person voice of testimony:
11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
Though David made many mistakes, yea, grievous sins in the course of his life, his default position was one of faith in God who enabled him to see the resurrection, albeit dimly, and have confidence in his God beyond the grave because he knows in God’s eternal presence, at his right hand, is the fullness of joy.
You and I can be encouraged to walk godly in Christ Jesus by sharing with David a firm, single-minded commitment to God, based on our raised and living Saviour.
Don Johnson is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.
- Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72 (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973),83. I like Kidner on the Psalms in spite of his Anglicanism and his unfortunate views of the early chapters of Genesis. His insight (and brevity) make him a valuable commentator. [↩]